by Sophia Tran (’24) | March 1, 2021
What does it take for a voice to be heard? Well, it took months of preparation for the TEDxSaintFrancisHS crew to create this year’s TEDx (Technology, Entertainment, and Design, with the x representing an independently organized TED event) conference at Saint Francis High School, an event organized to showcase the voices of Lancer students. On Saturday, February 20, fifteen students shared their personal stories with their community. However, this year also brought along an additional twist: COVID-19. Though the pandemic has challenged the community, it did not stop the dedicated people behind TEDx, in line with the TED motto of “ideas worth spreading.”
TEDx faced new obstacles this year through holding the event virtually. According to Ms. Lesley Shortal, Saint Francis TEDx moderator, the goal for this event revolved around normalcy. She shared how the community’s overall awareness of this event was different from prior years due to the virtual setting. However, she thought speakers were still able to experience TEDx “normally” by performing live to their audience—the board members in person, and supportive family and friends virtually. Whether it was presenting their speech on stage or running through tech rehearsals, these necessary components kept important elements of TEDx alive for speakers and for listeners.
With this aim for normalcy, the TEDx student directors, juniors Haley Flahavan and Katelyn Mihalko and former speaker Anay Nagarajan (’21), had to adapt from when they took the reigns of the event in 2020. One specific area they focused on were speaker workshops—meetings to refine speeches and offer coaching to students. From October through February, speaker workshops connected board members and speakers to enable collaboration. With speakers already on Zoom for many hours each day for school, three-hour virtual workshops were not ideal; the organizers created a flexible and succinct coaching schedule to supplement in-depth collaboration with speakers. Although the number of collaborative opportunities decreased this year, Shortal shared how the virtual setting had its benefits. “It seems to me that there were more people giving input on drafts this year,” Shortal stated. “I wonder if we’ll continue to have some coaching over Zoom in the future… maybe on a Saturday we’ll have a Zoom call, and people won’t have to drive, for some people probably an hour, to campus.”
After months of preparation, the 2021 TEDx event was held live on Saturday, February 20, through a YouTube livestream. Many people joined to watch and listen to the powerful speeches delivered by the fifteen students, sharing different perspectives with their listeners, with the concurrent viewership peaking at 242 people, and 2,000 total views as of February 22. The speakers talked about a variety of topics, including the coexistence of science and religion, the intersection of neuroscience and dance, the pursuit of curiosity and ambition, cultural identity, mental toughness in sports, and more. Their talks reflected their months of dedication and passion in providing authentic and impactful stories.
Though circumstances were different at this year’s event, the organizers and speakers made the very best of it. “The most magical moment in the TEDx process and also in my eighteen-year career as a teacher is when we get into tech rehearsals in the PAC, and the board is in the theater coaching the speakers on stage,” Shortal recounted. “The student voice is so powerful… I hope people are as impressed with our students and their ideas and as proud of them to talk in this very scary form.”
The Lancer would like to thank the TEDxSaintFrancisHS student organizers and Mrs. Shortal for moderating this year’s unique TEDx event, and most importantly, the speakers, for their unwavering commitment and inspiring conversations through sharing their stories.
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